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Press  |  12/19/2018  |  Mary Kathleen Flynn

Meet the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A

Accordion's Michelle Van Hellemont Named Among "2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A"

This article was published in Mergers & Acquisitions on December 19, 2018.

Mergers & Acquisitions has named 36 leaders as the 2019 Most Influential Women in Mid-Market M&A. All are outstanding dealmakers both inside and outside of their firms.

Interest in women’s issues is high, as is clear by the record number of women heading to the U.S. Congress. The momentum is fueled, at least in part, by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault, although the movement is facing something of a backlash at the moment. Some men in the financial services sector are reacting by avoiding women.

But many women in the middle market are stepping up and recommitting to helping each other.

“We launched Exponent Women to reinforce the value of bringing together women in financial services. We exchange connections, information and ideas to help one another succeed,” explains Michelle Van Hellemont, managing director of Accordion and a founding member of Exponent Women.

At a recent event hosted by the group, 200 female dealmakers came together, with banker-turned-entrepreneur Sallie Krawcheck as the featured speaker.

Recruiting women has become more of a priority at private equity firms. Eighty-three percent of private equity managers based in North America, Asia and Europe say they have focused on increasing gender diversity in their front-office roles over the last decade, according to new research from EY.

Advice for women? “Step forward, speak up and lead,” says Goodwin’s Anna Dodson.

Read the stories of the Most Influential Women in their own words in the edited Q&A’s that follow.

a q&a with Michelle Van Hellemont, managing director at Accordion

Q: How has a mentor helped your career?
A: My husband is one of my biggest mentors. He has instilled a toughness in me that wasn’t innate, helping me approach every step of my career with a fighting spirit (even though I’ll probably be smiling) and a practical layer of tephlon skin necessary to succeed in this market. He has supported me in taking calculated risks and encouraged me to make the big asks in my career. We employ a family commitment to continuously seek new challenges with and an “eye of the tiger” refrain toward their execution, holding closely to the importance of showing up for “game day” to win when the stakes are high.

Q: What is your current role?
A: My current role as a Managing Director at Accordion is centered around leading the firm’s private equity relationship management initiatives. Our private equity relationships are the core of our firm, and my role entails a balance of personally contributing to the firm’s growth by enhancing those relationships, as well as supporting our consulting team’s opportunities to successfully leverage their connections to build our network. In this way, my leadership role affords me the chance to help build the business and also serve as a cohesive force to impart our culture as we grow. Our consulting team is extremely passionate about the work that they deliver, and by staying on top of deals and people moves, we are able to reinforce the relationships that we forge through their great work – I play a pivotal part in this effort for our team.

Q: Describe your influence on the middle market.
A: My influence in the middle market is two fold – one is the nature of Accordion’s services and my role in bringing the right expertise to bear when sponsors voice their finance related needs/challenges within their portfolio. This leads to value creation (beyond financial engineering) at operating companies and better deployment of a PE firm’s own internal resources to put new capital to work. The second is the benefit of building a great network within private equity over time that allows me to provide actionable help when people ask for personal or professional connections – I thrive on putting great people in touch to have an impact on achieving goals.

Q: Describe a recent deal. 
A:
 In October 2018, Accordion announced a significant minority growth equity investment from SF-based private equity fund, FFL Partners. Accordion’s rapid growth and adoption in the private equity industry combined with the promising runway were significant factors in elevating the firm’s attractiveness to institutional investors. As head of the firm’s business development efforts, I was responsible for much of the go-to-market strategy content and communication throughout the management presentations that brought this exciting partnership to a close. This deal is a great illustration of client turned investor, as a testament to recognizing the larger brand opportunity Accordion has built through its trusted position in the private equity marketplace. The BD-driven reputation and thought leadership position now allows Accordion to capitalize on the trend toward elevating the importance of value creation within operating companies as the PE industry matures.

Q: How do you support other women?
A: I help develop financial services careers for other women by leveraging the best professional asset that I have – my network. I feel that one of the most valuable benefits of my career in business development is that it’s a career based on people, and achieving goals via relationships. As founding members, we launched Exponent Women in early 2018 to reinforce the value of bringing together women in financial services — and creating experiences that are actionable. We exchange connections, information and ideas to help one another succeed.

Q: What is your advice for women?
A: Put real value in the people that you meet, regardless of role/tenure and be confident that you have just as much worth in their network as they do in yours. Relationships are a marathon, not a sprint, so just because you might be asking someone for their help today, they might be asking you tomorrow (or in 10 years!). We all have a lot of constraints on our time, and no one can help everyone. But everyone can help someone. And the sooner you start, and the more you foster that philosophy, the better positioned you are for the future.

Most Influential Women Q&A: Michelle Van Hellemont, Accordion

“We exchange connections, information and ideas to help one another succeed.”

themiddlemarket.com